Sunday, August 30, 2020

Thinking harder: defund the pleasure police, pt 1

The series of posts that begins here constitutes a sequel to a previous entry I wrote about the LaVeyan principle of “Indulgence, not abstinence.”  Similarly to that entry, it too is about the further implications of that principle - specifically, the idea that the free pursuit of pleasure, defined in whatever manner suits the individual, is a fundamental good of life that therefore ought to deserve more respect than it sometimes gets.

The central argument of this post is that inasmuch as indulgence is of the significance that it is, people ought not to police pleasure unless engaging in it is causing a clear-and-present identifiable harm.  Among the things this specifically means are:

  1. Do not police pleasure on the basis of accusations of falsity.
  2. Do not police pleasure on the basis of supposed awkwardness.
  3. Do not police pleasure on the basis of it allegedly revealing something one ought to feel guilt or shame over.

Observing these rules re: not judging other peoples’ pleasure makes life a more pleasurable experience for everyone.  Doing the opposite creates situations in which people are garbage toward one another for no good reason, all-too-often toward the end (whether intended or not) of promoting herd conformity.

This entry is already-written-and-complete as of today, but I’m going to split it into three entries spaced over the next few months, because i) it’s long and ii) then I don’t have to put my blog on hiatus due to being busy.  

Today is thus merely part 1 of my extended “just let people like what they fucking like” rant. ;)

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Two examples of what I mean by policing pleasure based on accusations of falsity are as follows:

1) People who shame women for using anti-aging products, and/or more generally go around being snarky about anything that involves women and beauty.  

This pisses me off for all of the following reasons:

  • Taking care of your home is responsible home ownership.  Working out is responsible maintenance of your health.  Why the fuck then is there something bad about taking care of your appearance?
  • Many people who do this are straight men.  Guys, seriously, do you like attractive women?  Then don’t make fun of them for putting effort into looking good.
  • Most people who do this and aren’t straight men are so-called “feminists.”  You know what I think is NOT feminist AT ALL?  Assuming that the only possible reason why women care about their appearance is for men, and that they couldn’t possibly be doing it because they enjoy it themselves, on their own merits.  Bitching about the patriarchy’s disrespect for women’s agency while you are the one granting them none?  That’s a fail, ladies.

How do people who act this way then respond to points such as those just-made?  

Typically by wringing their hands a bunch about how fake women are sometimes, OMG.  

The presumption of such talk is that when women use anti-aging products, put extra effort into make-up or etc., there is no possible way whatsoever that this could be a source of satisfaction for the individual, via exercising agency through defining and refining their own appearance and aesthetically-enjoying the results for their own sake.  No, it can only possibly be “to impress men” or “to impress other people” or etc.  

Now, I grasp that some women may be caught in a “keep up with the Joneses, specifically pretty Miss Jones who is ten years younger than me” game that is not healthy.  But if you presume to judge this just based on what you see of a woman’s looks, or hear regarding her personal habits, how is that different from the “she’s a slut” -type judging that the less feminist-aware side of the political aisle is doing?  

Does the “oh look, women being judged now from all sides” dynamic this creates not strike you as needlessly shitty for the women involved?  Why not, instead, give women the benefit of the doubt and take seriously that they may genuinely enjoy refining their appearance for themselves? 

2) People who interpret all manner of overt being-goth as attention-whoring.

I reckon that all of us in the dark scene have at one point crossed paths with a person who cannot seem to get over the goth is fake thesis.  This is evident via them regularly saying things such as the following:

  • Oh, there they are in the park with their Victorian clothes and their big black umbrellas, being all look-at-me!
  • Somebody didn’t get hugged enough while they were growing up!
  • Why do they have to pretend to like serial killers?  It’s, like, so trying-too-hard to be edgy!

When I first started running into this years ago, it was usually among older adults who had lived somewhat sheltered lives.  In those instances, it’s still annoying, but I can kind of get it re: they just can’t wrap their head around it.  When I have been in positions to talk to such people about the scene, I can usually say a thing or two that shifts their perspective and gets them to reconsider at least a little bit.

Recently though, this attitude has become significantly more frustrating inasmuch as it’s increasingly been coming from people who themselves go around talking a big talk about diversity and “flying the freak flag.”  I have encountered cases where the self-same person who shrieks that “dressing a certain way is never 'asking for it!'” and “it’s misogynistic to call any woman an attention whore in any circumstances!” seems to at the same time think that goths dress the way they do only for the purposes of asking for attention.  

This is, in my opinion, just one of an extremely long line of examples I could give wherein we seem to have a problem with diversity Pharisees: people who take way too much pride in their ability to follow rules, while having way too little capacity for real moral reflection re: do you actually treat your fellow person well or not.  These kinds of people are futile or even dangerous to try to explain subcultural fandom to, because they will probably construe it as “white people trying to pretend they don’t have white privilege by writing themselves into a fake minority demographic, ergo racist.”  

The common denominator between these two cases is the contention is that the woman/goth in question is inauthentic, motivated only by some kind of what-other-people-think consideration, rather than maybe doing what she is doing because she enjoys it for her own sake.  This is annoying enough when it comes from ignorant people (e.g. men who claim they want "natural beauty" yet complain if a woman "lets herself go to seed"; older adults who think goth is "just a phase"), but is 10x more annoying when it comes form people who think they are "enlightened" (e.g. feminists who judge other women’s fake eyelashes as a sign of lack of intelligence, or who are allergic to accusing anyone of being an attention whore unless goths are involved).  

In making this complaint, I am not so naive as to think that there are never people who have an inauthentic aspect to the way they indulge in things, e.g. peer pressure or etc.  What I object to, though, is the lazy, slap-dash judgment of an entire group of people as inauthentic based on the judge’s unquestioned presuppositions.  

With the ignorant, it’s simply a matter of “maybe try not being so ignorant,” and in my experience, this is often best accomplished by just politely talking to such people to gently expose them to a different perspective.  I have in fact presented the taking-care-of-home-and-body analogy to the “natural beauty” guys now and then, and gotten decent results as far as people seeming to rethink their position a bit.

As to the enlightened, on the other hand, it seems to be much harder to get these people to maybe consider: ideology does not grant you magic telepathic powers that enable you to know infallibly why each individual women invests in beauty products or why each individual goth likes the specific dark things they like.  Why can’t this just be admitted, and what harm would it then do to just give people the benefit of the doubt, especially if you don’t know them personally?  

The unfortunate answer to this question is all-too-often “but I enjoy the delicious snark.”  And I personally find this exceedingly objectionable.  It's not at all that I don't think this is a genuine pleasure for these individuals.  It seems to me, though, that “delicious snark” is all-too-often built such presumptions as “this person is oh-so-clearly-mock-worthy because they think and do things that no correctly-thinking-and-acting person does” or “…. mock-worthy because they are so blatantly deviant from my group’s norms” or etc. 

In short, it thus seems to me that people who “enjoy the delicious snark” may in fact be addicted to toxic herd conformity. And from a LaVeyan perspective, that's a bad thing, because it's then a case of pursuing a short-term limited pleasure at the cost of harming everyone's indulgence prospects in the long run, via the discouragement of individualism, free expression, etc..

Maybe something to think about before too-freely jumping to conclusions about whether other people are “just doing that to fit in / to stand out,” folks.